Feast of Christ the High Priest

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  I tried putting this on your blog questions site, but have been continually rejected; anti-English bias?

 Do you have the provenance for the Preface of today’s feast?

In the 1962 Missal the Mass of Christ, the High Priest, (from which  today’s prayers – but not readings – are taken) has the Preface of the Holy Cross. I wonder if legitimately it could be substituted now – mainly to preserve health & blood pressure of those who have a less than traditional approach to gender & priesthood!


A:  Sorry you’re having problems posting questions. Occasionally I hear this complaint from followers. Sometimes I receive a question from one person and then moments later receive a complaint from another that the site rejected the question. We can’t figure it out. If it makes you feel any better, even some Americans have the same problem!

Never hesitate to send a direct email as you did.

Well, here in the (some would say) benighted United States of America, we do not observe the Thursday after Pentecost as the Feast of Christ the High Priest. The observance is optional where the conferences of bishops permit it. Ours has not included it. So, I celebrated the Mass of St. Justin the Martyr today.

But for you in England, this is a feast. And that means that the preface is obligatory. I’m not sure why the preface changed from the preconciliar one in the postconciliar observance, but as I’m sure you know, the preconciliar missal had scant few prefaces compared with the cornucopia of the postconciliar reform.

As to those who have a less than traditional approach to gender and priesthood, they would be absolutely delighted if we chanted that very preface in the original Latin, instead of the English translation. Where it says “he chooses men to become sharers in his sacred ministry,” the Latin uses the gender-inclusive homines, not the gender specific viros.As to its provenance, it draws from the preface for the Chrism Mass in the Ambrosian Rite. The original in this case is in Italian, and it refers to those among the popolo nuovo who are prescelti. It’s true that that is a masculine plural, but in the context it may be read as gender inclusive.

I don’t think that either the Italian or the Latin is trying to make a case for women priests. I do think that they are both indicating that what makes the ministerial share of Christ’s priesthood so special is that God chose human beings for it.